The 40k Rulebook: Page 2

The 40K Rulebook: Page 2

Ah the age old argument: should I have fun playing with my little plastic army men, or should I turn it into a competitive sport, and treat every game like there is a million dollar prize, and a super bowl ring at stake? 

I’ll start by introducing myself.  My name is Tony and I’m in the military.  I

 have a great time playing 40k, and I’ve been playing for about three years now.  I’ve always known about the game because my grandparents owned and operated a comic book store until I was 13.  I’m an avid comic book collector, and I have a way hotter wife than I deserve since I play with plastic army men and collect comic books.  I started 40k because I was stationed in Kansas and anyone that has driven through Kansas can tell you that their is nothing there.  Luckily, some of the most skilled 40k players I’ve come across happened to be in that land of corn and the elderly.

First, imagine you are that Tactical Marine on the field.  Now imagine yourself soaring high into the sky to view the battlefield, and then the continent, and finally the entire world.  Instead of being concerned with your 1×1 square of the world, you are now viewing all facets of Planet X at a 10,000×10,000 feet.  Now you see the armies moving, the civilians carrying on from day to day, and even the generals in there strongholds, directing their armies to war.  Things should really be changing for you now.  Now that you are seeing things from my point of view, I want you to remember how you got here, and I’ll make sure I come down to your 1×1 section from time to time to ensure that I’m seeing things from your point of view.  Now that you’re up here, let’s open all of those rulebooks again and take a peak.  Tut tut!  No skipping over page 2 (small rulebook).


”All of these instances can lead to arguments, so it is important to remember that the rules are just a framework to create an enjoyable game.  Winning at any cost is less than important than making sure both players – not just the victor – have a good time.”

“The most important rule then is that the rules aren’t all that important!”

So when was the last time you read that?  Do you keep it in the back of your mind when you are playing?  Can you tell when the player across from you is a hardcore tournament (i.e. incredibly strict on your turn, not so much on his) player, or when he just wants to play with his $1,000 plastic + time spent painting and have some fun?  These are two very important distinctions to make.  This brings me to unwritten rule #2.

RULE NUMBER 2:  Know your audience

Most of you have taken a speech class in your lifetime, or you’re a supervisor, a manager, or you’re just a line level customer service rep.  Maybe you’re at the bar trolling for some women.  The key to it all is to know your audience.  Who are you talking to?  How do you approach them?  When they are wrong, how do you tell them?  This can make your life incredibly easy, or incredibly hard.  As a 40k player you should be able to make this distinction pre-game.  I’m a pretty easy going player.  I tell most of my opponents right off the bat that I’m not going to argue (scroll up to rule #1).  That should tell you that if you have a problem with something, or you think I’m wrong, just tell me.  It’s not a big deal, and I don’t really care.  Just be gracious about it, and when you screw up I will be too!  Here is a fairly recent example of mine:

Player 1: Very snappy, rude: “Vanguard don’t get Descent of Angels, READ YOUR RULEBOOK!

Me: Taken back by the tone, but polite: “uhm… hmm…  yeah, check the jump pack equipment section I think.  Everything with a jump pack gets it, but since Vanguard pay for their jump packs it’s not listed under the unit description.”

Player 1: Minutes go by, a noticeable bit of angst “Oh, well I read on some forum replies…”

The game continued from there but it left a sour taste in my mouth.  I would have never talked to somebody like that.  I choose to lead by example so when I had a question about some of the same player’s Necron shenanigans (not that the player cheats, the army just has some crazy rules) I began with a smile and a jovial polite tone.

Me:  “WOW, can your wraiths really teleport through there and then zip around like that?!  That’s awesome”

Player 1: “Yeah, it’s great!  See, here in the monolith section it says…”

My question was answered, I learned something, I wasn’t upset by it and neither was he.  It didn’t take a panel of judges, or more than about 20 seconds.  Everyone seemed happy enough, and the game continued.  It’s 60% how you look, 30% how you say it, and 10% what you say. How else do you think presidents get elected?  Have you actually listened to what they say?


I’m not religious, but the Golden Rule is awesome.

Go read this if you’re unfamiliar with it:

How on earth does any of this relate to 40k?  We’re all human, we all have lives, and most of us don’t live and breathe 40K.  You never know what you opponent has going on in his or her life, so why not give them the same treatment you expect in return?

I’m going to say this now: EVEN IF YOU ARE IN A TOURNAMENT THESE RULES DO NOT CHANGE. If you win because a player forgot to shoot half his army, do you feel good about that?  I don’t think you should.  I keep an eye out for my opponent.  Do you know why?  Because I don’t know everything about the game, I screw up, and you do too.  I want the fairest game possible, against the best that an opponent can be.  If that means I’m 7th of 14 in a tournament, GOOD.  That’s exactly what I deserved, but I bet I make a lot of friends and have a great time along the way.  My day will not be ruined, I’ll come home smiling, and my wife and dog will have a good time with me for the rest of the night.

Whether you agree with me or not, remember that from 10,000 feet up you can see that we’re all grownups playing with little plastic army men.  Let’s start acting like it!

John Stewart photo from The Daily Show by Comedy Central.


22 comments on “The 40k Rulebook: Page 2

  1. Beautiful. An excellent contribution to the discussion, but more importantly a reminder of the point of the whole thing, whether we’re at the table – in any context – or beyond it.

  2. Great article. That is exactly how I feel. It is a game, which implies you PLAY to have fun. It is not fun when you are being attacked or challenged the whole way through, or have to call someone on every little thing as they try to stretch the rules way out of line. I like your comment “WOW, can your wraiths really teleport through there and then zip around like that?! That’s awesome”. I will have to use it sometime.

  3. It’s so true. I’m a casual-competitive gamer. I enjoy tournaments and a competitive environment but not at the cost of being a douchebag. Your approach with the Necron player was great and I do similar things. If you aren’t sure about something or things seem odd then politely bring it up, you don’t have to be a dick about it.

    • I agree! It’s always nice to win, but keeping a bit of humble in your back pocket goes a long way if you want to play that person again! Thanks for reading!

  4. I ordinarily start to get worried as the bile rises in the back of my throat whenever somebody on a blog or forum starts talking about “the most important rule.” I’ve almost always seen it used by players as a means to attack tournament players or just as an excuse to suck. You, however, have managed to make for a great read and should be commended for it. More people should pay attention to your “unwritten rule #2.” I think half of the flame wars would instantly cease to exist.

    • I appreciate all of the positive response! I think it really is about how you come across to your fellow gamers more than anything. Hopefully some of my gaming mantra can cross over into the real world too!

  5. Fantastic stuff!! I’m constantly dismayed at the constant deluge of people on the internet (not just 40kers) putting one another down. It’s sad that people willfully reject good manners and respect because they feel that the internet’s anonymity makes them bigger and tougher.

    The Golden Rule bit is a great reminder for people attending tournaments. I’ve played with people casually who get more competitive in a tourney. It can be easy to overlook that you are still playing against other people. True you are playing to win, but is that win worth destroying your friendships or reputation as a nice person?

    • Changing the ways of the internet may be a lost cause. We might be able to salvage those face to face encounter though! I blame social networking and MTV. Oh geez, listen to me ramble.. I sound like I had to walk up hill, both ways, in the snow, with no shoes to school. I did, by the way. And back in my day Mario only went side to side.

      I love to play the exact same way that I normally play while in Tournaments. I think it goes a long way when you can say “Hey, you forgot to shoot your long fangs” to your opponent. Do it next time your at a tournament and watch your opponents face. The feel of the entire game will change, and I bet they will do the same for you.

  6. This is great, i spend so much time hearing nothing but moans about the hobby and players its really nice to see someone advocating this set of common sense (not to mention just plain polite) set of rules. This was really refreshing to read and i couldm’t agree with you more, especialy in the tourniment settings.

  7. >hardcore tournament (i.e. incredibly strict on your turn, not so much on his) player

    This is a pretty unfair generalization. I’ve met just as many casual players who were jerks as I have tournament players.

    A good competitive player strives to follow the rules, insomuch as they can actually be interpreted, for both players. People who get into screaming matches about niggling details, who conveniently “forget” the rules when they are detrimental, and who butt their heads into other people’s games when not asked to correct those involved on how they “should” be playing- none of them are practicing good competitive play. They’re being jerks, plain and simple, and jerks come in many varieties.

    If I’m not playing in a tournament, I’m content to be a bit fast-and-loose with things if they aren’t important or if they make the game more interesting. If I’m competing, I expect that both I and my opponent will be held to the rules of the game as they’re printed and not make things up; different environments and expectations. But you are absolutely right that folks need to learn to have a sense of scale about these things.

    • Well, I’m not sure what Tony meant specifically, but I know that I
      generalize gamers into groups. We don’t have much of a tournament scene in
      the area, but we still have players that I’d refer to as “hardcore
      tournament players.” Yes, it’s a stereotype, and no the tourny part isn’t
      true. Perhaps the point he was making had something to do with a player
      treating a casual game as if it was a “hardcore tournament game?”

      But I think it’s more important not to get lost in the labels here. Sure,
      he might have used a (somewhat) unfair generalization, but the message is
      just to be good to each other. And that’s a message I think we all can
      benefit from.

      • My generalizations are exactly that, and I think we’re all grown up enough to understand that their are and always will be exceptions to every rule. I don’t think I’m advocating making things/rules up, but it all boils down to Knowing Your Audience. That should encompass the setting (tournament or pick up) as well. Certain things may need to be spelled out more clearly in a tournament setting vs. the aveage pick up game. That seems like a RAI vs. RAW argument though, which isn’t really the theme of the post.

        I totally agree with you on what a good competitive player should be. There are different levels to each “label.” Extremists on both sides of the fence are detrimental. But the message is there, just be a regular human being and I think all players, no matter the setting, can benefit from it.

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